Outgoing Tory MPs take lucrative second jobs and ‘swan off on jollies’

<span>The Houses of Parliament in London: 11 MPs listed roles worth more than £100,000 a year. </span><span>Photograph: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP</span>
The Houses of Parliament in London: 11 MPs listed roles worth more than £100,000 a year. Photograph: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP

A cohort of Conservative MPs standing down before the next election have netted jobs worth millions of pounds and have taken dozens of all-expenses-paid trips funded by foreign governments and lobbyists, the Observer can reveal.

Sixty-four serving Tory MPs and four independent MPs who lost the Tory whip have announced that they plan to stand down at the next election amid polling that suggests their party may face an electoral wipeout.

But analysis by the Observer has found that 34 members of that group, the vast majority of whom are current or former ministers, listed a net total of over £2.5m of expected annual income in the register of MPs interests.

One transparency campaigner said the findings suggested departing Tory MPs were “taking their eyes off the day job” and trying to “cash in on their political connections to secure lucrative jobs”.

While some of the jobs were for smaller sums, 11 MPs listed roles worth over £100,000 a year. At the top of the list was former justice secretary Brandon Lewis, who has taken on five new part-time roles worth £410,000 a year alongside his commitments as an MP.

The most lucrative were for LetterOne Holdings, an “international investment business”, and FM Conway, an infrastructure and road-building company that frequently works for local and national government.

Former chancellors of the exchequer Kwasi Kwarteng and Sajid Javid registered work worth £98,600 and £321,000 a year respectively, including, in Javid’s case, a £300,000-a-year part-time advisory role to Jersey-based investment firm Centricus Partners.

In January, former deputy prime minister Dominic Raab registered a £118,000-a-year role working for private equity firm Appian Capital, for which he needed to work for roughly a week of every month.

Some 26 of the departing MPs have also taken all-expenses-paid trips to the likes of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, usually paid for by lobbyists or the governments of foreign states.

Independent Beckenham MP Bob Stewart, who surrendered the Tory whip late last year before he successfully appealed against his conviction for a racially aggravated public order offence, registered eight foreign trips worth nearly £20,000.

Meanwhile, backbencher Lisa Cameron, who defected to the Conservatives from the SNP last year but is not to set to contest her seat in the next general election, registered six visits outside the UK, including one paid for by the government of Thailand and one by the government of Qatar.

Former business secretary and Cop26 president Alok Sharma listed some 11 subsidised trips worth over £95,000. That was alongside over £330,000-a-year’s worth of outside work. Sharma said: “Much of my travel outside the UK is related to voluntary and unpaid work I undertake to advance climate action. This includes travel to support greater ambition through the Cop process, including visits to the UAE which hosted Cop28 last year.”

MPs’ second jobs have been at the centre of growing controversy over the last two years, in the aftermath of separate major lobbying scandals surrounding former Conservative MP Owen Paterson and former prime minister, now foreign secretary, David Cameron.

While the government promised a crackdown on the practice, planned proposals to strengthen Acoba – the regulator that nominally oversees MPs’ outside work but operates with limited powers and a shoestring budget – have yet to materialise.

“Rather than focusing on second jobs, these politicians should be spending their time and energy on delivering for their constituents and the British people,” said Lucy Powell, Labour shadow leader of the House of Commons.

Susan Hawley, executive director of Spotlight on Corruption, said: “Departing MPs have a right to seek employment like anyone else. But it clearly looks as if some former ministers on their way out of politics are taking their eyes off the day job to swan around the world on jollies paid for by foreign governments, and cash in on their political connections to secure lucrative jobs.”

Rose Zussman, the senior policy manager of Transparency International, added that even MPs standing down “have a duty to represent their constituents” until they leave. and that these revelations raised “questions about whose interests these MPs are serving and whether they are using their privileged positions to benefit those funding them”.

Lewis, Kwarteng, Javid, Raab, Stewart and Lisa Cameron were all contacted for comment.